Whether you are familiar with classical music or not, you might have heard of Beethoven before. Even if you haven't heard Beethoven's symphonies, you might have come across a famous melody, the Bagatelle No. 25 in A Minor WoO 59, commonly known as "Für Elise."
"Für Elise" is one of the most frequently played piano pieces for every pianist, demonstrating how Beethoven's music transcends time and space. People easily sing along to this famous melody while wondering about the identity of "Elise." Who was Elise? Why did Beethoven compose this piece and dedicate it to Elise? These questions add an air of mystery to Beethoven's life for his admirers. This blog will provide you with a guide to unravel the behind story.
Beethoven and Elise Candidates
It was in 1810 when Beethoven composed Für Elise, and during this time, his deafness was worsening rapidly. What we understand about Beethoven's illness on the surface level is that despite his hearing loss, he managed to overcome it and continued to compose remarkable music. However, if we delve into what Beethoven's real life to empathize what he was actually experiencing gives us a little hint of how Beethoven actually might have felt. A composer suffering from deafness—how could someone create music without truly hearing it?
Beethoven might have been horrified from the potential loss of his extraordinary gift, regardless of the exceptional musical talent he was born with. This may have undoubtedly led him into a state of profound fear and uncertainty and lost his mind. It is famous that Beethoven had a personality that most people couldn't bear with, and the loss of hearing even contributed to a deterioration of his personality (check out this site if you want to know more). Eventually, he pushed himself further into social isolation, elevating his loneliness.
This background of Beethoven's personal life and personality allow us to understand why Beethoven failed to find his wife despite being the most respected and famous composer of his time. However, we are not saying that he was never connected with women! Here are three intriguing women with whom Beethoven went on a date at this time, accordingly any of whom could possibly be Elise. We are excited to introduce two women who believed to be Elise among many possible theories! Let's delve deeper into these interesting stories.
The most interesting theory suggests that the name "Für Elise" was possibly misread by scholars due to Beethoven's messy handwriting on the manuscript. Beethoven was known for his very terrible handwriting, even some studies suggest that he had dyslexia. The original manuscript of Für Elise was lost until Ludwig Nohl, the first scholar who found the manuscript and copied it in order to publish it in 1867. Nohl has named as Für Elise based on the handwriting on the score. Scholars who believe that Therese was "Elise," argued that Nohl misread the handwriting and the music should have been named Für Therese, not Für Elise. Unfortunately, we don't know the truth if he misread it as the manuscript is now lost.
So, what was happening with Therese? Who was she? Beethoven was Therese Malfatti's piano teacher at the time when he composed the piece. Some scholars think that Beethoven fell in love with Therese, despite the significant age gap, when he was around 40 and she was 19. We do not know if Beethoven actually named this song as Für Therese or not. However, what we do know is that Beethoven proposed to Therese, but she may have turned him down. Therese ended up marrying another man. Considering Therese was the most likely woman with whom Beethoven wanted to start a marriage, it is understandable that Therese could indeed be this Elise.
The second candidate of Elise is Elisabeth Röckel, who was an opera singer at the Theater an der Wien. They became close friends because of her brother, Joseph August, was a singer in Fidelio, an only opera Beethoven composed. Not ony her brother but herself was a famous opera singer of her time, performing on many extraordinary operas we know nowadays including including Mozart’s Don Giovanni.
It is a well-known story that Beethoven contemplated proposing to her. However, in 1813, she married the composer Johann Nepomuk Hummel. Despite being married to another composer, she remained a close friend of Beethoven until the end of his life. She often visited Beethoven shortly before his death, and he even bequeathed his quill to her. This strengthens the belief that Elise was indeed Elisabeth Röckel, known as "Elise" among her close friends.
Indeed, it is true that we will never exactly know who Elise was because of the lost of a original manuscript or letter Beethoven indicating the dedication of this music. Nevertheless, the backstory of Beethoven's personal life adds a touch of delight when we play the music. We can imagine that your interest in the music has now grown more, and you might be eager to perform it yourself! If you are searching for the sheet music for "Für Elise," we recommend checking out this website that offers it for free.
Additionally, we would like to introduce an intriguingly arranged version that allows you to play alongside a musical partner. This version incorporates various musical elements that might gain your attention, while still keeping the original joy of the sound. It's divided into three parts. The first part maintains a simple arrangement, allowing you to hear the original version of the music simply divided between two players. The upper range adds a slight counterpoint or doublings, offering the option to play the original melody. The second part takes an interesting turn by transforming the music into a jazzy syncopation. This provides a unique touch to the music, especially for those interested in playing a jazzy interpretation of Beethoven! The final part is arranged with a magnificent sound, incorporating a coda-style arrangement to the music. This beautifully ends the music with grand finale, making sure you're playing Beethoven's music. Don't forget to watch the video we've provided below, and if you're intrigued, you can also find the sheet music available here.
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